Dog Care for Senior Pets
It wasn’t too long ago that your adorable, furry youngster entered your life. Fast forward a few years and now you have a senior dog who may require a little more from you.
The old rule of thumb that 1 dog year = 7 in human years is approximate, yet not accurate. A dog at the age of 6 is the equivalent of a 45-year-old human. At 10, they’re closer to 65; 12 =75; and at 15 = 90.
The most important thing you can do is consider how old your dog is in human years and keep your senior dog active, mentally stimulated, re-evaluate diet and schedule Veterinary well exams at least once per year (if not semi-annually).
It’s crucial to maintain proper weight. Consider a diet that is high in fiber, low in fat and calories, includes vitamin supplements and cut back on table scraps and treats. Consult with your Vet re: appropriate nutritional balance, while also scheduling more frequent well exams. Once your dog reaches the age of 6 (large breeds) or 8 (small breeds), an annual well exam, including blood work, is recommended. Early diagnosis of potential conditions might make the difference in adding years to your dog’s life.
Typical Senior Conditions & Special Dog Care Considerations:
Arthritis & joint pain: Easy to spot; your dog isn’t able to climb stairs anymore, can’t walk as far, has trouble getting up or down and slips and falls on slick floor surfaces.
Anti-inflammatories and/or joint supplements can help. Slip-proof your floors (add rugs to non-carpeted surfaces) and make sure your dog has a soft bed to sleep on.
If your dog prefers the tile floor and has calloused elbows from lying around too much, break open a Vitamin E capsule and apply the oil to the sore areas. Cut the toes off a small sock and slide them on top of the anointed area to ensure absorption.
Giving a massage can’t hurt and can increase relaxation, oxygen flow, provide some pain relief and joint flexibility.
Dental Disease: Your Vet may indicate periodontal disease and will recommend treatment. Or, you have already noticed bad breath or teeth discoloration. Chew on this: if untreated, this can lead to decay, tooth loss and possible infection.
One of our clients, a 6-year old Doberman, was diagnosed with CUPS; a mouth disease which causes painful ulcers on the gums and mouth lining. The cause of CUPS is a hypersensitive immune response to bacteria and plaque on the tooth surfaces. Fortunately for Eli, it was caught early, so he only lost a few of his canines, although had it gone untreated, he could have lost ALL of his teeth. He now receives twice daily oral brushing.
Start early with your dog’s dental care and pay closer attention as your dog ages (chronic bad breath is your first clue). Actively brush the teeth, provide hard-surface chew toys or bones and consider a professional cleaning.
Heart Disease: digression in the heart valves lead to enlargement of the heart and eventual failure. Early diagnosis is critical (consider adding X-rays to annual well exams). Treatment of congestive heart failure might include a low-salt diet, minimizing exercise, and/or medications to increase heart function.
Diabetes: if you notice increased thirst (and urination), weight loss, unusually sweet-smelling breath, dehydration (sticky gums), chronic skin infections, urinary tract infections or lethargy, you may have a dog who’s developed diabetes. Again, with early diagnosis, this is treatable with medications or a high-fiber diet, and in most cases, insulin injections. Medications are available to control incontinence.
Kidney Disease: this is the most common metabolic disease in dogs. Known as Cushing’s Disease or Hypothyroidism, early detection (through blood work) is critical so special diets and medicine can be prescribed.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction: akin to Alzheimer’s in humans, this is a decline in the mental faculties. Fifty percent of dogs over age 10 will exhibit one or more symptoms of cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Symptoms might include disorientation, sleep interruption, aimless wandering and indiscriminate elimination. Behavioral changes, such as wanting considerably more attention from you or not much at all, could mean your dog is reacting to his own symptoms and uncertainty.
Behavioral changes may be due to other conditions, such as Cancer, infection, organ failure, or drug side effects.
Eye disorders: the most prevalent is cataracts. Some breeds are genetically predisposed to cataracts, although old age is a big factor. Your Vet may recommend surgery, or an alternative treatment, such as phacoemulsification. This is a progressive disorder that could lead to complete blindness. Dogs have amazing survival instincts and can manage a balanced and happy life without sight. You may need to rearrange the furniture to assist their navigation! However, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment options should be seriously considered.
Consider your dog’s age, when you last visited your Vet, and think about Pet Insurance for the future. Visit our link under “Partners and Products” for our recommended pet care insurance provider: Healthy Paws.
Enjoy each day with your dog in good health and happiness!
Photo credit to Gualberto 107 @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Grow Old with Me…” quote by Robert Browning